Just off Baseline road and Highway 36 is Chautauqua Park– only a few minutes from downtown Boulder. I hiked it today, Christmas Day, going from the parking lot to the top of Flatiron 1 in about 80 minutes. There are 3 flatirons, the most spectacular being Flatiron 3 and the Royal Arch, which is about a 90 minute hike. Overall, this is one of the best hikes in Boulder in terms of payoff versus effort expended.
As you climb higher and higher above the treeline, you get more revealing glimpses back down to Boulder and even Denver on a clear day. Of course, this doesn’t compare with a place like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, which is a 2 hour one way hike, and one of the best rated hikes in the world– but for a 5-10 minute drive, it’s amazing.
The trail is easily accessible– only minor bouldering and hardly any exposure. A 5 year old could do it– and I even saw some today, as many families had the same idea for a Christmas afternoon. But be careful in the last third of the hike– the ice is quite slippery. And if you go on past what appears to be the top, the trail does continue on to wrap around a small peak a few hundred yards away that is not visible except from the flatirons. Don’t let the wind knock you down, as it gusts strongly and can easily knock your footing on the ice.
The payoff is a private nook that is behind Flatiron 1, a little cave you can climb up to that isn’t on the map. And you do have to climb to get up there– it’s off the trail. But the view looking deeper into the mountain is well worth it. Just don’t fall on the way down! Coming back is a lot harder than going up, especially with the ice and strong wind.